- Measles and whooping cough jabs risked BSE infection
- Children were given vaccinations in the late 1980s despite
a risk of becoming infecting with the BSE virus, it has emerged.
- Experts deliberately played down the dangers fearing
a far greater health risk if parents stopped their children having the
- Sir Richard Southwood, who chaired a working party examining
dangers posed to humans by BSE in cattle, said government advisers avoided
an "alarmist" report.
- The aim was to prevent a scare that might have left hundreds
dead or maimed by diseases like whooping cough and measles.
- The working party knew, when it prepared its 1989 report,
that jabs prepared using chemicals from beef were "much more efficient
in transmitting" the agents believed to cause BSE than eating infected
- In letters to health chiefs, including the Committee
on Safety of Medicines, the panel called for urgent action to address the
problem. But the working party's published conclusions said the risk of
infection was "remote".
- In his evidence to the inquiry, Sir Richard, an Oxford
academic, insisted the report spelt out the dangers and was not misleading.
But he admitted that while drafting it the team was "mindful of the
disastrous consequences of an alarmist report".
- He explained such a report "would certainly have
resulted in many deaths and much disability as was known to have occurred
with those discouraged from having whooping cough and/or measles vaccinations".
- Sir Richard said the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
believed the report was likely to raise "considerable alarm".
- A Department of Health spokeswoman said officials could
not comment on the detail of Sir Richard's evidence ahead of the inquiry's
- However, she confirmed that health chiefs had shared
Sir Richard's fear of a scare prompting parents to stop their children
receiving vital jabs.
- "The risk to human health was considered remote
and theoretical and a judgement was made that the existing vaccine supply
should not be withdrawn. There is no evidence to link new variant CJD with
any medical product," she said.